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Friday, June 18, 2021

Safe and Connected Youth pilot keeps young people off the streets

The Safe and Connected Youth pilot has reduced the risk of homelessness for all participating young people, an evaluation shows.

Rachel Stephen-Smith, Minister for Families and Community Services, welcomed the evaluation report commissioned by the Youth Coalition of the ACT.

The pilot has run since October 2019, delivering an outreach program to support eight- to 15-year-olds (the ‘middle years’). The program provides therapeutic case management, family mediation, and short-term respite care to mediate and de-escalate family conflict.

“Children and young people in the middle years can face challenges that lead to a risk of homelessness or coming into contact with statutory child and youth protection or youth justice systems,” Ms Stephen-Smith said. “The Safe and Connected Youth program represents an innovative approach to supporting these young people.”

Many of the young people involved returned home safely, with better understanding of family dynamics and communication in the home. Where a young person could not return home, the program steered them away from homelessness through respite accommodation or other arrangements.

The ACT Government invested an initial $480,000 to fund the trial, which ran between October 2019 and June 2020 as a collaboration between the ACT Government, Youth Coalition of the ACT, Woden Community Service, Northside Community Service, Conflict Resolution Service, Marymead and the Rotary Club of Canberra.

The Government committed a further $840,000 through the COVID Support Package to continue the program to 30 June this year, as families in the program needed more support through the pandemic.

“This whole project has been an exercise in co-design and co-production with our community partners and young people themselves,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“I am pleased that the report shows the program has been a success, and I congratulate our partners for realising and delivering this innovative service for Canberra’s young people.”

The Government is also setting up a dedicated respite facility for young people under the age of 16 who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. $1 million was allocated through the Fast-Track (Screwdriver Ready) Program to refurbish a Housing ACT property. The redevelopment has been informed by close engagement with young people and advice from South Australia’s successful Ruby’s Reunification Program.

“The ACT Government will continue to work with our community sector partners to support children and young people and understand how their needs may change as we continue to navigate the recovery phase of the pandemic,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

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